Friday, May 3, 2013

10 Years without the Old Man

 Our state symbol is the Old Man of the Mountain.  I see him every day on my car license plate, the state highway signs feature his profile, and the many magnets on my fridge from trips to the White Mountains.  However, it has been ten years ago today since anyone has seen the Old Man of the Mountain where he belonged, up on the side of Cannon Mountain in Franconia Notch.

1955 U.S. stamp
When the fog rose off the notch ten years years ago, it was reported that this rock profile fell off the side of the mountain in a landslide.  Just driving through Franconia Notch, you can see from the miles of rock litter that landslides are common here.  I remembered hearing annual reports of how the "Great Stone Face" was doomed to fall someday, but I never thought it would be in my lifetime or even my daughter's lifetime.  I cried the day I heard the news.  I cried the first time I drove through Franconia Notch after May 3, 2003.  I'm reaching for a tissue now as I write this.

Generations of my family remembered the Old Man.  I remember my Grandfather asking me if we had stopped to view him after a family trip to the White Mountains.  I remember my Dad stopping the old family station wagon at Profile Lake so we could all take a look.  I remember posing my daughter "just so" under his profile so we could get a photo of her "kissing" the Old Man.  If you are from New England I suppose you have similar memories.

As seen on eBay
The New Hampshire legislature just cut from the budget some plans to create a memorial to the Old Man of the Mountain.  There were silly renderings submitted for the memorial including a fiberglass replica to be hauled up to where he used to hang, and a possible museum at the base of Franconia Notch.  Personally, I think all our memories and family photos are the best way to memorialize, and not trivialize, our Old Man.

2000 New Hampshire State Quarter

2005, Where the Old Man used to be

This sign was hung at Profile Lake in 2005
to show how the collapse of the profile rock formation probably happened.

Copyright 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. I remember visiting the Old Man several times while living in NH in the late 50s to mid-60s. I was surprised, but not shocked, when I heard on the radio ten years ago that he had fallen. There had been predictions for years and attempts to prop him up.

    If you look at your 2005 photo though, there is no need for a faux fiberglass Old Man. He is still there but MUCH larger. The view is at his left shoulder seeing the back of his now humongous head and his long flowing grey-white beard that lays on his barrel chest. His is Falstaffian now. You can make out his left ear at the dark spot just right of dead center of the photo. And then there is his brow just above his piercing black eye that looks off into the distant cloudy blue sky -- photo left. He has grown quite rotund and has a nice head of hair though flat against his broad skull. ;-) Not gone -- just having gone through a bit of metamorphiosis!

  2. Oh, how very sad. I did not know that the Old Man of the Mountain was the victim of a landslide. I'm glad you have ways to memorialize him. I have in-laws in New Hampshire, but I think they arrived after he was gone. That's a majestic-looking stamp. "Live Free or Die."